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Asian Markets Mixed Amid Cautious Trades

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Asian stock markets are mixed on Wednesday after U.S. stocks closed higher overnight in a choppy session. Investors turned cautious amid uncertainty about a new U.S. coronavirus relief package and following reports that the U.S. and China plan to review the implementation of their phase one trade deal in mid-August.

The Australian market is declining despite the positive cues overnight from Wall Street in a choppy session. The continued impasse over a U.S. stimulus package and Virgin Australia's announcement of job cuts weighed on the market.

Weak Australian economic data and worries about the rising number of coronavirus cases in Victoria also dampened sentiment.

Virgin Australia, which is readying to exit voluntary administration under new owners, said it will cut about 3,000 jobs, shut down its low-cost carrier TigerAir and streamline its fleet by shedding aircraft.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 42.50 points or 0.70 percent to 5,995.10, after touching a low of 5,989.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is lower by 36.50 points or 0.59 percent to 6,130.00. Australian stocks closed notably higher on Tuesday.

The big four banks - Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, Westpac, and ANZ Banking - are lower in a range of 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent.

Among the major miners, Rio Tinto is declining more than 1 percent, Fortescue Metals is lower by 0.5 percent and BHP Group is down 0.3 percent.

Meanwhile, gold miners are gaining after gold prices closed overnight above $2,000 an ounce for the first time ever. Evolution Mining is higher by more than 3 percent and Newcrest Mining is rising almost 3 percent.

In the oil sector, Santos and Woodside Petroleum are advancing more than 1 percent each, while Oil Search is adding 0.3 percent after crude oil prices rose overnight.

Telstra said it will sell its Clayton data centre facility in Melbourne to Centuria Industrial REIT for A$416.7 million. Shares of Telstra are declining more than 1 percent, while Centuria is in a trading halt ahead of an expected capital raising announcement.

On the economic front, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group showed that the construction sector in Australia continued to contract in July, albeit at a slower pace, with a Performance of Construction Index score of 42.7. That's up from 35.5, although it remains beneath the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

The Japanese market is losing following two days of gains and as U.S. stocks closed higher overnight in a choppy session amid uncertainty over a new stimulus package. In addition, the safe-haven yen strengthened against the dollar and weighed on shares of exporters.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is down 158.62 points or 0.70 percent to 22,415.04, after falling to a low of 22,356.25 earlier. Japanese shares closed higher for a second straight session on Tuesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is losing more than 4 percent and Fast Retailing is declining almost 1 percent.

The major exporters are lower on a stronger yen. Mitsubishi Electric is losing more than 2 percent, Sony is declining more than 1 percent, Canon is lower by 0.5 percent and Panasonic is down 0.2 percent.

Sony reported an increase in profit for the first quarter from last year, but forecast full-year net income to be down 12.4 percent from last year.

In the tech space, Tokyo Electron is lower by almost 1 percent and Advantest is down 0.2 percent.

In the financial sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are declining more than 1 percent each. Among automakers, Honda Motor is down almost 1 percent, while Toyota is adding 0.3 percent.

In the oil sector, Inpex is higher by more than 1 percent and Japan Petroleum is edging up 0.1 percent after crude oil prices rose overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Takara Holdings is gaining more than 4 percent and Marubeni Corp. is higher by almost 4 percent. Minebea Mitsumi, Dena Co., Dowa Holdings and Sumitomo Metal Mining are all higher by more than 3 percent each.

Conversely, Yamaha Corp. is tumbling more than 9 percent, Tokai Carbon is falling more than 7 percent and Meiji Holdings is losing almost 5 percent.

In economic news, the latest survey from Jibun Bank showed that the services sector in Japan continued to contract in July, albeit at a slower pace, with a PMI score of 45.4. That's up from 45.0 in June, although it remains beneath the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. The composite index improved to 44.9, up from 40.8 in the previous month.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the mid 105 yen-range on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai, New Zealand and Malaysia are also lower, while South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan are higher. Hong Kong and Indonesia are little changed.

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Tuesday after showing a lack of direction for much of the trading session amid uncertainty about a new stimulus. The late-day strength on Wall Street may partly have reflected a positive reaction to comments from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken. McConnell told reports he is "prepared to support" a coronavirus relief bill agreement between Democrats and the White House even if is he has "some problems with certain parts of it."

The Dow closed higher for the third straight session, climbing 164.07 points or 0.6 percent to 26,828.47. The Nasdaq rose 38.37 points or 0.4 percent to a new record closing high of 10,941.17 and the S&P 500 advanced 11.90 to 0.4 percent to 3,306.51, its best closing level in over five months.

The major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Tuesday. While the German DAX Index fell by 0.4 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index inched up by 0.1 percent and the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.3 percent.

Crude oil futures settled notably higher on Tuesday, with traders picking up positions ahead of inventory data on hopes of a drop in stockpiles. WTI crude for September settled at $41.70 a barrel, gaining $0.69 or about 1.7 percent for the session.

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